Open-source software is a concept that’s been around a long time. It is steadily gaining greater traction and visibility currently with the prevalence of programs like OpenOffice. To be “open-source” means to have your guts showing, so to speak, or maybe muscle and bones is a more appropriate analogy. Most programs on your computer operate in a closed manner – they work as if by magic, and you never get to see inside the program to detect how it works. With open-source, you do, and the benefits don’t stop with viewing.
The first prominent open-source system may well have been the Linux operating system. Most people use Windows or a Macintosh operating system, which are both closed to scrutiny or modification. However, the makers of Linux and other operating systems such as Ubuntu made the source code, which are the building blocks the programmers used to create the system, available for any user. These users not only can see how Linux works but they can make any modifications they desire, essentially taking on the role of programmer on their own computers.
Since then, there have been many other open-source releases, of which a popular favorite is OpenOffice. OpenOffice is a free alternative to the (not free, very closed) Microsoft Office suite of software. Because users can modify the code behind open-source software, they can customize it to their personal taste.Or, they can add features and other functionalities which they can share with other users if they so choose. Open-source development encourages a strong communal and collaborative effort that results in some remarkable advancements.
Most open-source material is free of charge. Even more appealing than this is the freedom, transparency and personal customization that it offers users. In light of this, it will be interesting to see how the current trend of app(lication)-based smartphones and other technology affects open-source development.